18 Days in Gmail

by David Battino

Gmail logo As I type this, my desktop e-mail program, Eudora, is downloading hundreds of messages I read and wrote on my Gmail account while traveling over the last 18 days. (I use other people's computers to check e-mail when I travel, simply because I spent my entire computer budget on a G5 tower and an AlphaSmart Dana laptop. The Dana, which runs Palm OS 4, is simply brilliant for writing—instant-on, 20-hour battery life, exceptional keyboard—but my version doesn't do e-mail.)

In the past, I'd used Yahoo mail to check my various accounts, but at the end of a trip, I'd have to forward each message individually if I wanted to archive it in Eudora. In contrast, Gmail has a cool feature that lets you download mail directly to your desktop program via POP. It also updates the display immediately, unlike the unbelievably sluggish Y-mail. So I configured all my accounts to forward to my Gmail account, and used Gmail exclusively for 18 straight days.

Because I use zillions of folders to organize things in Eudora, I was initially leery of Gmail's "use one folder for everything; we'll help you search for it later" approach, but I grew to like the way it grouped message threads into "conversations." After replying to a message, I could archive it to remove it from the Gmail In-box, and if someone responded, the whole conversation would pop up again.

The only difficulty I had was posting to a mailing list that expected to see my Batmosphere address. (Changing Gmail's "reply to" setting wasn't good enough to fool the mailing list, although that works on Eudora.) And, of course, now I'm busy sorting 428 messages into folders. I'll also miss the way Gmail was able to display HTML e-mail, my only complaint with Eudora.

How do you sync your desktop and traveling computers?


Jill C.
2006-08-19 18:38:25
Yahoo does POP too, if you pay $20/year. Well worth it, though: better mail handling (using the beta version), no ads at bottom of messages, and better spam handling.
2006-08-19 18:50:39
Skip POP - find email service that offers IMAP and webmail access to your mailbox. IMAP is all about keeping everything synced up, and your mail stays on the server for access from anywhere.
Thomas Mango
2006-08-19 19:10:28
Why don't you just use Gmail all the time? After moving to Gmail over two years ago, I have not been able to use a regular mail client since. The way I perceive email is now in 'conversations' and it is incredibly difficult for me to think otherwise.
2006-08-19 19:28:00
IMAP with FastMail.fm.

2006-08-19 22:32:39
"How do you sync your desktop and traveling computers?"

I use Gmail everywhere - work, home, parents. Drop Eudora, use Gmail - you'll never go back to a local mail client again... :)

David Battino
2006-08-19 23:36:44
Jill: Yes, the new version of Yahoo mail does look more promising. It’s certainly faster. I’ll keep my eye on it. I kept being pleasantly surprised by the little convenience features in Gmail, though, like the way it maps keyboard commands to mail features (on the Windows PCs I used anyway), autosaves messages in progress, and even recovers after a Wi-Fi dropout.

Joe and Magnus: Thanks for the IMAP tips. Since I opt to leave my mail on the Gmail server, it does stay accessible from anywhere, so I’m not sure what the advantage of IMAP would be. (I did browse a few POP vs. IMAP discussion sites, but didn’t notice any striking benefits.)

Thomas and Anonymous: I organize projects (some as small as a single article I’m writing) by e-mail folders because that lets me browse and back up a single folder. I fear that if I were to throw everything into Gmail’s single bucket, I would lose track of certain projects. Also, Eudora is mighty fast at searching. I might move to Gmail if it had an “add this message to conversation X” button. Perhaps I could do that by changing the subject of the message to match the conversation and forwarding it to myself?

Julio Ojeda-Zapata
2006-08-20 03:18:20
Dude: IMAP. Using this instead of POP lets you have a desktop-like experience at home and do the Webmail thing on the road. The key is to find the right e-mail provider. I use FastMail.FM, which gives me access to the same folder structure on my Mac at home (via Apple Mail, but Eudora would work, too) and via the Web on any other computer. To try IMAP without cost or risk, sign up for a free FastMail.FM or AOL account (the latter also does IMAP). You may soon find yourself graduating to a premium FastMail account, with domain-name support.
2006-08-20 05:09:58
GMails equivalent to folders is the Labels feature. The advantage of labels is that a single message can have several labels, while in Eudora or other clients a single message can only be in one specific folder.

You can also specify filter rules, which can then apply a label to a message based on specific criteria, for example "contains XYZ" or "sender is XYZ". Filters can also send messages directly to the archive, bypassing the Inbox. This is very useful for Mailing Lists, since these usually contain a specific tag in the subject line. You could then setup a filter, which archives these mails and applies a label. GMail will then show you the unread count next to this label.

2006-08-20 07:09:55
Definitely you need IMAP. I use IMAP on my Mac (Entourage) and my Windows machine (Thunderbird, which I don't really like) and my Palm (Chatter Email). Plus I have webmail access to it via Squirrelmail via my webhosting company.

IMAP means never needing to read the same email twice, or file it twice, or delete it twice.

I manage all my email using a simple system: read it, process it, done.

Read it, then process (move to either "Active [means I need to followup]" or "Waiting" [i.e. confirmations for online orders] or "Save" [Keep for reference] or "Trash"

IMAP makes it easy.

Peter Jaros
2006-08-20 07:17:32
You can send email through Gmail from any account you can read. Just go to Settings -> Accounts and click "Add another email address". Follow the instructions to confirm the address, and you'll be able to change your From: to your Batmosphere email.

Unless that's what you meant by Reply-to:. In which case, I can't help you. :)

Aaron B. Hockley
2006-08-20 08:16:58
How do I sync? I don't. I use Gmail.

If you absolutely totally positively just HAVE to obsess over sorting everything, you can use labels in Gmail.

Gordon Meyer
2006-08-20 10:41:13
I second your assessment of the Dana AlphaSmart, it's a great writer's tool.
2006-08-20 13:15:32
I'm with Aaron on this one. After years of using Eudora and IMAP, I've switched over to Gmail and don't miss the old system one little bit. Every few days I download a backup of everything on Gmail via POP, so Eudora still has some use as my backup archive. But for day-to-day use, I find Gmail more efficient, more useful, and faster.
David Battino
2006-08-20 14:08:27
Thanks, everyone. Giles, I should note that I was inspired in implementing my folder system by your “Joy of an Empty Inbox.” However, like you in your subsequent “From Eudora to Gmail,” I remain vaguely uneasy about routing all my mail through Google. Not that it’s any less private than normal e-mail.... But I’m beginning to doubt Eudora will ever modernize its Mac software, so this might be as good a time as any to take the plunge.
David Battino
2006-08-20 15:33:55
Peter: Thanks for the tip on adding an e-mail address to Gmail. I had overlooked that. (The custom Reply To address is a separate feature.)
2006-08-20 18:21:30
How do you sync your desktop and traveling computers?

Easy. Imap and dated space for folders.

2006-08-20 18:38:32
International Yahoo accounts (or at least my UK account) still has POP and SMTP enabled for free - just change your country to a non-US country when signing up, and change it back later.
2006-08-20 20:11:10
I don't think it's enough just to say "IMAP." IMAP is a protocol, not a service, and some services that use IMAP suck. My employer's email service uses IMAP, and it (a) has a hideously ugly and non-intuitive webmail interface, and (b) has quotas sufficiently small that I spent way too much time purging and archiving. So I have switched to Gmail. I don't have to worry about purging, I like its interface, and it's free. Plus, I have its filters set up to match my Smart Folders in Mail, so it's a seamless transition. Privacy is the one concern I have.
Joseph Pollone
2006-08-20 21:20:46
The benefit in using Apple Mail versus a web-based email service is the ability to use Spotlight. Sure, you can easily search Gmail separately, but it is nice to have a combined search.
Mike McGranahan
2006-08-21 14:26:12
Having a centralized mail repository was important for me as well. I had a spare computer so I set up Linux on it a couple years ago and installed Courier IMAP server. Since I have dynamic IP, I also had to setup a dynamic DNS (I use No-IP, they have free and pay-for-custom-domain options). After configuring, I opened the IMAP SSL port on my router and was in business. I use Thunderbird as my IMAP client regardless of platform I am using. (My laptop is an iBook.) I then tied SquirrelMail (the best available at the time) into the mix for a web interface.

To get mail onto the server in the first place, I set up Postfix MTA (along with NoIP's BackupMX service). I suppose you could alternatively just use getmail/fetchmail and pull mail from a POP server into your server mail repository, and then make that available through IMAP.

This set up mimics Google's in that I leave all mail in one folder and simply perform real-time searches on it in Thunderbird to find particular messages. Squirrelmail's web interface is less powerful but effectively the same can be achieved. Such a setup would scream on a G5 tower, but even my old Pentium III/700 suffices. Of course this means you have to leave your server machine on 24/7. But it's worth it to have all my mail on a RAID protected, backed up machine, rather than living on my laptop or desktop. All that those client machines store are the mail headers (though you could opt to download the full content of all messages if that suits your needs).

David Battino
2006-08-24 17:07:19
To follow up on Peter’s tip, I just tried creating a Batmosphere.com e-mail account on Gmail and sending a message to the mailing list that was rejecting my Gmail address. It still bounced. Hmm.
David Battino
2006-08-24 21:30:55
...And to follow up on my previous post, it turns out my message did post to the mailing list, even though it generated a bounceback message. Double hmm.
2006-08-28 16:53:57
Congrats on the Dana! Looking forward to hearing how it works out for you.
David Battino
2006-08-28 17:47:23
DeanG: I love my Dana. I've had mine for three years and it still looks new. I've read they're built to survive a four-foot drop by school children. (One wag on the Dana list said he liked to demonstrate them at tradeshows by juggling them. When he dropped one, a key might pop off, but then he'd just snap it on again and get back to typing.)

Another feature I like is the way the Dana becomes a remote keyboard when you connect it to a computer's USB jack. That lets me use it as an alternative for the cramped keyboard on my Windows PC.

With Documents To Go, the Dana can even open and edit Word and Excel files. The main drawback is the short, reflective screen, which looks great when you're in strong light, but wimps out in darker settings.

2007-02-01 13:20:06
Skip using Complex old style email, let go, feel free! The conversation feature is so much better than anything offered in a on-the desktop program (MS outlooks is terrible) and searching subfolders is usually hoki and a very blunt tool with no sort by relevance. Plus, did you notice how FAST Gmail searched your archive? How much more useful the search results are? My only concern is it is hosted by a service offered to the public. I would suggest Google sell this product to businesses to see if they can increase the productivity of its people. Imagine: a web based FAST email system that does not take 3years precious information down the drain when your PC crashes. Even with server profiles, exchange sometimes has trouble with large email storage (over about 1.5GB per user) and occasional email storage corruption - especially when you start using archive folders.